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Students call for change at protest against Kappa Sigma party

The Devils took down the Florida State Seminoles, previously undefeated in the ACC, Saturday at Indoor Cameron Stadium
The Devils took down the Florida State Seminoles, previously undefeated in the ACC, Saturday at Indoor Cameron Stadium

At 1 p.m. on Wednesday students protested at the West Campus bus stop in response to the international-themed Kappa Sigma party that was held last week.

The protest lasted about twenty minutes and included calls for a new task force to deal with incidents like the party, as well as community service by the members of Kappa Sigma. The event featured several student speakers including ASA president Ting-Ting Zhou, a senior, Blue Devils United President Jacob Tobia, a junior, and Asian American Association co-presidents Tong Xiang, a senior, and Kat Zhang. Zhang, a junior, also serves as chair of The Chronicle's independent editorial board.

The protest served as an extension of the flyer campaign that occurred yesterday morning, which brought campus-wide attention to the Kappa Sigma party. The student speakers led spectators in a series of chants such as “No more hate, make Duke great,” and “Hateful parties make no sense, don’t party at our expense.” One speaker also read aloud the original email sent by Kappa Sigma on Jan. 29 to invite students to the party, which was originally dubbed “Asia Prime.”

“It is not an apology of words we desire,” senior Ashley Tsai said to the crowd, “but an apology of action.”

More than 500 people were in attendance, forming a large circle around the speakers and a poster reading “RACE IS NOT A PARTY.” Zhou made it clear to the crowd that the offense taken by students on campus was not limited to Friday’s event.

“This protest is about the destructive prejudice that must be uprooted from every corner of Duke to make this place an inclusive and safe place for all,” Zhou read from a pre-written statement.

Zhou and Tobia concluded the demonstration by reading aloud a letter they had composed to Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta with demands for change. The letter calls for the establishment of a Group Bias Incident Task Force constituted of leaders of organizations representative of groups that have been historically marginalized. The goal of the GBITF, the letter says, is to “adjudicate punitive measures” for similar incidents that may happen in the future at the University.

“We believe that the administration must hold Kappa Sigma fraternity accountable for their actions,” the letter reads. “Through requiring Kappa Sigma to apologize through reparative action, Duke will set an important precedent that this behavior is unacceptable in the Duke community.”

The letter also demands that the members of Kappa Sigma participate in a community social justice project consisting of ten volunteer hours each to causes approved by the Center for Multicultural Affairs or else face immediate de-chartering.

“No longer can the social norms of this university be determined by a small group of people,” Zhou said. “The dominant definition of ‘fun’ has poisoned this community for the past few years—and we must re-establish fairness and equality on this campus.”

Not all in the crowd were moved by the emotional demonstrations. Sophomore Fedja Pavlovic called the outcry over the party and the resulting protests ridiculous.

“In the Western world, racism has become a deadly word and screaming it, just relying on the intensity of the word, is a just really good way to gain public recognition,” Pavlovic said. “Being able to joke about one culture is a sign of maturity. I’ve seen it in my own country [Montenegro] and in America more and more. It’s a good thing.”

Kappa Sigma has issued an official apology to the Duke community via The Chronicle for hosting the party and for any offense and misrepresentation of cultures it may have caused.

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